Nestle Zimbabwe says measures taken by Government to restrict certain imported products will allow it to fully utilise the idle capacity into which it had recently invested. Country manager for Zimbabwe Ben Ndiaye said the company has invested $30 million over the past five years, demonstrating its commitment to Zimbabwe. As such, he said to grow and develop the economy there is need to “buy Zimbabwe”, but the forerunner should inevitably be manufacturing of local products.
Government recently removed a number of basic products, that can be manufactured locally, from the open general import licence to protect local industry. The products are listed in Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 gazetted recently,
Among the products removed is Nestle’s coffee creamer, Cremora, into which the Swiss food giant had invested $8 million to boost production capacity. The list of products that now require prior permission from Government before importing them into Zimbabwe includes both food and non-food items.
Such products include potato crisps, bottled water, baked beans, salad cream, peanut butter, yoghurt, doors, window frames and a variety of plastic pipes. Industry sources said Nestle’s Cremora was under threat, with estimates that imports from South Africa accounted for 40 percent of the volume sold.
The investment was under threat, amid indications that the company had started reducing the head count of casual workers to cut costs as sales came under pressure. “Definitely, we salute the decision from the Government, and as you have seen here, we have really invested a lot and we believe in this economy.
“That is why we are trying really to do our best to increase our capacity utilisation and make sure that we are able to satisfy local demand,” he said. “We have to be very positive about this situation and do the right thing; investing, creating jobs and supporting each other, making sure everything goes from local to local, meaning economic growth has to be driven by us. As an industry, we have a great role to play,” Mr Ndiaye said.
He said Nestle continues to invest in Zimbabwe, despite a challenging economic environment, because it believes in the economy and long-term investment. The Swiss food giant has been in Zimbabwe for 57 years.
Nestle senior vice president (Africa and Midle East) Mr John Miller told The Herald Business that Zimbabwe remains a conducive environment for investment, despite the economic challenges.
He said while other economies were experiencing a slowdown, sub-Sahara region, and Zimbabwe in particular have a growing upper middle class, which provides scope for more investment to tap into that growing market.
He said the current economic challenges the country is facing present opportunities for serious businesses to invest as there will be benefits in the long term. “We believe these are good times to invest because we know good times will come.”
In the outlook, the company will make more investments in line with its growing business in the country and region to meet the local and export demand. “We have just finished the cycle of investment and now we are in the business of growing volumes to absolve that capacity we have built,” he said.
Credit: All Africa